Golfers Find Rhythm With Fifth-Place Finish

    FENCING — The Tritons earned their best finish of the season with a fifth-place performance at the Cal State San Marcos Invitational on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9.

    UCSD fired a three-round total of 907, finishing 39 strokes behind winner Holy Names University on a wet and soggy San Luis Rey Downs golf course.

    Junior captain Keith Okasaki and freshman Anubhav Rastogi finished in a tie for 20th at 11-over-par for the three rounds. Rastogi carded the lowest score of the tournament for the Tritons: two-under-par 70 in the final round.

    After struggling through the first two rounds, Rastogi changed his mental approach to the final round. He said he made some minor changes before stepping on the first tee.

    “I played smarter in the third round,” he said. “I stopped shooting right at the pins, so I didn’t put myself in bad positions if I missed the green. On the practice green, I switched my putting grip to one I used to use when I was kid. It was a little less fundamental and more about feel.”

    Something worked: Rastogi got up-and-down on three of his first six holes, and tallied birdies on the first two par fives.

    He got as low as three under on the round before bogeying the 13th, 14th and 15th holes. Back at level par, Rastogi gathered himself, bouncing back with birdies on the 16th and 17th.

    Knocking his approach to the 18th green to only two feet, Rastogi had a chance to break 70 — a magic number for the golf team.

    “[Head coach Mike] Wydra told me right before putting that I would be exempt for next year’s team and be on the roster for the [St. Edwards Invitational] if I broke 70,” Rastogi said. “I have never been that nervous before.”

    With a shot at 69 on the line, Rastogi pushed the two-footer. Even with the miss, Wydra was proud of Rastogi’s performance.

    “[Rastogi] got to a point where his adrenaline made him stronger,” Wydra said. “He proved himself by coming back from those three bogeys with a chance on the last hole to break 70.”

    Okasaki and senior Raj Samra, in the first and second spots respectively on the squad, played well over the first 36 holes, but struggled over the final 18. Both shot final-round 79s after solid opening rounds on the first day.

    Wydra said the disappointing final rounds were a testament to the conditioning that the sport requires.

    “Golf is so much about flexibility,” Wydra said. “I think that after playing 36 holes in day one, your body gets sore and tired. It’s like running a half-marathon one day and going out for a five-mile run the next — your body is sore. That’s what happened to Keith and Raj. Their bodies weren’t doing a good job, and they were off because of that.”

    Samra had another explanation.

    “I didn’t get much sleep the night before the final round,” Samra said. “I was studying for a midterm that I had the following night.”

    While a fifth-place finish might seem lackluster to an unknowing spectator, Wydra said the team did quote well, considering the competition.

    “Redlands, who finished in fourth, competes annually for the Division-III national championship,” he said. “The top three are full-scholarship schools that are able to recruit in ways that we can’t.”

    Okasaki echoed his coach’s comments, adding that many competitors came from schools with lower academic requirements.

    “It’s a huge disadvantage for us, especially in this economy,” he said. “Players will go to schools that offer them financial help, instead of here. We have higher academic standards than a lot of these other schools, making it difficult to get recruits here.”

    UCSD’s rigorous admission requirements have taken a toll on Triton recruiting.The golf team lost two potential players this year because their SAT scores and GPA were below standard.

    That reputation didn’t scare off blue-chip recruit and transfer Samra, who said that UCSD’s academic reputation — along with the opportunity to play so many courses — was exactly why chose to attend.

    “[Wydra] was the only coach that came out to one of my community-college tournaments,” he said. “I was going to go play at Sonoma State, which won the National Championship last year, but what really sold me was the opportunity to improve my golf game by playing so many courses.”

    Next up for the Tritons is the St. Edwards Invitational in Austin, Texas on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

    UCSD will host two qualifying rounds for the team over the next two weeks to determine who will travel to the event.

    Readers can contact Matt Croskey at [email protected].

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